Last meals in Paris

The last residual post…I am back in the US now.

Not wanting a repetition of our earlier dining disappointments in Paris we made sure to have reservations for our last 4 evening meals. We came back to Paris from Italy with dinners already scheduled at fancy places found on a TimeOut list of Parisian favorites. But after 3 days of Parisian favorites we discovered that these kinds of restaurants are probably: A. REALLY expensive, B. Not so much what we wanted to experience food-wise, and C. Probably not so much what we wanted ambiance-wise.

The first 2 nights were good, the restaurants chic but the food seemed to be more or less conceptual rather than toothsome, and the restaurants were really cramped. The penultimate (Oh, God, I actually used that word) night we ate at some fancy place whose name escapes me, just off the quay on the Left Bank. The first course which we shared was a few cubes of raw tuna on a plate smeared with humous, dotted with halved cherry tomatoes, dusted with bacon dust (?!) and sprinkled with shiso leaves. Stop the insanity. Just before we were served le plat (main course) a woman sat down at the table next to us, which is to say practically in my lap, whose coat reeked so badly of mildew that it was hard not to gag. I am not sure what one does at that point. The place was the size of a shoe box, there was no where else to go. Mentally, I wrote Ms Manners and she really had no good suggestions either.  The meal was good enough, a pork thing sauced with something red, tubes of pasta filled with cheese on a bed of ground mushrooms, covered with small, wild champignons and dusted with chervil. Actually it was probably parsley but chervil sounds less sane.

The Royal Indian Mounted Food Control Police dined on mold-scented I’m not sure what. But it was conceptual and pretty in a weird way. The dessert, also conceptual and mold-scented, was warm and cold. Cold quenelles of dark chocolate gelato next to room temperature quenelles of milk chocolate fondant. Dotted with mint gelées, sprinkled with chopped roasted peanuts and chocolate crispy things. It tasted good but the warm and cold thing was weird. And the mint jelly deals…sorry, toothpaste. May as well have squirted it with Crest which has been shown to be an effective decay preventive dentifrice.

Continued below

So the last night we ended up canceling our reservation at the Top 25 place and headed instead to Gallopin, a 150 year old Paris institution. The paté en croute was right straight out of this world. The chicken something-or-other fermier on potato puree was great. The wine with the unlikely name of Chateau le Crock was fabulous. And while it may not make the list of top 25 for Parisians, the place was spacious enough that a moldy lady could have been sitting nearby and we’d never have known.

The next Bond Girl

The Royal Mounted Indian Food Police and I had lunch at Laduree on the Place Madeleine. I love Laduree. It is gloriously pretty, the service is impeccable, their french fries come in a cute stack and the butter comes rolled up all pretty-like (I had a plain omelette…with fries). Sitting next to me on the banquette was the next Bond Girl, Lea Seydoux and her famous actress mother, Valerie Schlemberger. I mean on the banquette, at the table right next to us. 

In a million years I would never have known who they were but apparently the talent for spotting inauthentic Indian food is closely related to spotting French movie stars. Although she did win best actress at Cannes last year so one might have reason to know her but neither one of them looked anything like the picture below. And certainly not a soul in the place recognized them. It’s a good thing there wasn’t a curry on the menu, he’d have been all over that shit too.

The secret of pasta alla norma

I don’t exactly love eggplant. I more tolerate it than like it. But somehow I love pasta alla norma—eggplant, tomatoes, olives and capers. Requested as the final meal by the Royal Indian Mounted Food Police before his departure for Belgium, home of Indian food, I made it and retired the coffee filters I used to absorb the moisture from the eggplant in the microwave. It’s a good trick. The eggplant doesn’t disintegrate quite as easily once it’s been microwaved for 10 minutes (with a rest at 5 to move things around). And they’re microwaved on coffee filters.

I’m not sure why they need to be coffee filters as opposed to say, paper towel, but Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated is very explicit about it. I’ve used these for at least 2 years. They looked it and have been retired. I’m not sure if they feel bad about not having achieved their goal in life, filtering coffee, but they had a good run.

The meal was excellent.

Bon Voyage

The Royal Indian Mounted Food Police left for Belgium last Friday. Our friends Jodie and Steve gave us this most exquisite bottle of wine as a parting gift. We had had it for the first time in Belgium, then the next year in France. It’s my favorite wine. If only it didn’t cost $$$$$$$$$. In Europe it only costs $$$$$.

Slam dunked the thing.

Butter chicken

The Royal Indian Mounted Food Police decided to make butter chicken. I don’t recall ever having had this unlikely sounding Indian dish. And if I did, it was no where near as good as this. I’d have remembered it, I think. With it he served fried okra, raita (I made that and it was excellent…well, at least he didn’t complain about it so I take that as a good sign) and chapatis. The chapatis make it sort of an Indian taco deal and that was fine with me.

I could not for the life of me tell you what was in the butter chicken or how it was prepared. But I can say that it was a very complex operation involving a great deal of chopping, frying, fuss and bother. There was butter in it. I wasn’t really aware of it but I am certain that is was a factor in its deliciousness quotient.

And in case there was a possibility that I might forget how good it was, the smell lingered in the house for 3 days to remind me.

Using up that pineapple

I hate having things go to waste. The pineapple, bought peeled and cored, cost more than my couch. I had to do something with it. It was a cold and bleak day last Tuesday. I could eat chili all year ’round. I have no idea why it is served “seasonally.” What makes it seasonal? We eat hot food all year. What’s so wrong with chili in June? Anyway, it was a cold and stormy day and chili seemed right. Certainly, right enough for me. I made chili and served it with pineapple raita. It’s fusion. Indian and Tex Mex. Or whatever chili is. Another smash up of cultures.

I made chorizo and turkey chili.  And I ate it with pineapple, cilantro and green onion raita. And it was awesome. And the Royal Mounted Indian Food Police did not arrest me. In fact, though they didn’t say so, I think they liked it.

Exceptions to the rules

As it turns out, the Royal Indian Mounted Food Police do make exceptions for Indian-ish food when they themselves are making it. We had beef vindaloo tacos. Never mind that the tortillas were parathas (or some damn thing) and that the salsa was raita. These were tacos and they were delicious.

The beef (we aren’t even gonna discuss the very not Indian-ness of this) was marinated in a vindaloo-ish marinade. And then grilled, although grilling is not a common Indian means of cooking things either, just sayin.’ The meat is thinly sliced and served on the paratha with yogurt raita. The raita, by the way, was excellent.

It was a meal fit for the Maharani of Jaipur. If she ate beef.

Stir fry

I just cringe at the words. It reminds me of the 70s when everyone (my father chiefly) was into stir fries because they were healthy. Meh. Don’t get me wrong, I like Asian food but I want an actual Asian meal, Bang Bang Chicken, Sizzling Rice Soup or General Chow’s Something or Other not some slop thrown into a pan because it’s healthy (ugh), easy (lazy) and fast.

But I have a lot of Asian condiments for some reason that escapes me and had all the right vegetables so I whipped one out. It’s easy that’s for sure except that the meat and some of the vegetables have to get stirred and fried at different times for some culinary reason that I won’t go into here.

Fortunately there is no equivalent of the Royal Mounted Indian Food Policing system as regards Asian food because this meal bore only the vaguest resemblance to Asian food in that it tastes Asiany. And while I am sure they’d have eaten it, it tasted fine, they’d have been amused, or maybe bemused.

And yes, I did put all those things into. And yes, it was shrieking spicy hot.

Slop B (MOP)

North African slop. The food of North Africa is pretty easy to slap together, unlike, say, Indian food where you have the Royal Indian Mounted Food Control Police hounding you if you have a cardamom pod out of place, you can pretty much throw anything into a crock pot and if it has cumin and coriander in it you can call it north african. I threw in caraway and cardamom for good measure.

This tasted pretty much like chili despite all the north africany ingredients.